Hurricane Debt Weakens to Tropical Storm Debt, but Experts Warn It's Still Debt

Hurricane Debt Weakens to Tropical Storm Debt, but Experts Warn It’s Still Debt

It’s been over a year since the last time I gave an update on the state of my own debt. Since we’re always dispensing our opinions from our seat on the divine acropolis at the crest of Mount Olympus, we like to be transparent about our own situations. So let’s check in!

As we’ve chronicled, Piggy and I paid off our student loans ahead of time. And we don’t have credit card debt, unless it’s part of a nefarious-but-prudent scheme to harvest points. When talking about my financial sitch, I love to describe myself as “debt free, except for my mortgage!”

Which, when you think about it, is kinda weird? Like describing a milkshake as “dairy free, except for the milk!” The milk is not a small or trivial part of a milkshake. It is eponymous! It’s basically the point of the thing!

And the mortgage is a big debt. The average American family has $16,000 in credit card debt (yikes). An average student’s educational loan debt is $34,000 (double yikes). But the median home price blows both those numbers out of the water at $227,000.

For most people, a house is the most expensive thing they’ll ever buy, and the largest source of debt. It’s the milk in the milkshake.

And if you were about to jump to the comments to erroneously claim that ice cream is the point of a milkshake, hold ya fakkin’ hahses, khed. I live in New England. Our milkshakes do not have ice cream. If there’s ice cream in it, it’s called a frappe.

I can’t tell you why. I don’t make the rules, I just abide by them.

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Leaving Home before 18: A Practical Guide for Cast-Offs, Runaways, and Everybody in Between

Leaving Home before 18: A Practical Guide for Cast-Offs, Runaways, and Everybody in Between

Happy Pride, my beauties!

… okay okay, that’s enough pleasantries—I’m worked up about something!

I recently read an article about queer teens being thrown out of their homes by unsupportive families. It had a lot of advice that sounded pretty good. Pursue legal emancipation. Talk to your teachers and guidance counselors. Seek therapy.

“Bah,” I scoffed through a mouthful of Babybel cheese. “Amateurs! Someone needs to write a real guide. Someone who actually knows what it’s like!”

I was too busy playing with that weird red wax to remember I was exactly that person.

I left home when I was a junior in high school. The reasons were complicated and sad. Suffice to say it was driven by a need for physical and psychological safety I wasn’t getting at home.

Everything worked out for me. I got lucky and landed on my feet. A few psychological scars added to my roguish charm! But it’s not the best strategy. Sorta like throwing yourself down a mountain and hoping you learn to ski on the way down. (Also a thing I did once. How am I alive?)

There are many reasons a teenager might leave home early. Among them: poverty, instability, abuse, neglect, addiction, incarceration, system involvement, and mental and physical health issues. Some are thrown out or kicked out in stark, dramatic fashion. Others are slowly, painfully squeezed out or frozen out. Still more are ignored, unsupported, or victimized to the point that the child must take the initiative to leave.

Regardless of the method, one of the most prevalent reasons teens become homeless is due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Nine in ten homeless LGBT teens “ran away” (46%) to escape family rejection, or were actively forced out (43%) by unsupportive parents.

So I dedicate today’s article to our young queer readers. May you never need the tips I’m about to lay out.

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I Am a Craigslist Samurai and so Can You: How to Sell Used Stuff Online

I Am a Craigslist Samurai and so Can You: How to Sell Used Stuff Online

A few months ago I found my neighbor’s purse in the alley behind our houses near the dumpster. It was a nice purse, real leather, and inside was a Coach brand wallet. I assumed she’d been robbed, and went to her door to return the nearly empty bag. Imagine my surprise when she told me that no, it hadn’t been stolen, she’d just thrown it out.

Rather than side-eyeing her into oblivion, I kept the designer items… and sold them for cold, hard cash. Because that, dear friends, is how I do.

For I am a Craigslist Samurai! A Paladin of online, stranger-to-stranger transactions! Bequeath unto me your used snowboards and semi-broken furniture! I shall dust them off, fix them up, and turn them for a tidy profit, all in the name of my eventual financial independence!

Besides the thoughtlessly discarded purse and wallet, over the last few years I’ve sold a dresser ($20), a table ($25), a microwave ($10), a VCR ($10), bar stools ($20 each), a flat-screen TV I literally found on the side of the road ($100), another flat-screen from a friend ($100), two tables ($50 and $20 respectively), my old desk ($50), an AC ($20), a hardwood bed frame ($280), and a bike a friend left in my garage because he didn’t want to bother selling it before moving away ($150).

Selling stuff online can be a great way to bring in a little extra money. Most of the items above are things I got for free. The tables, for example, were left in the alley behind my house (before you call me out on it, yes, I aspire in all ways to be Dumpster Doggy). I rescued them, gave them a new coat of paint and stain, and sold them.

And if you’re patient, the payoff can be huge: the bed frame, bike, and TV were all from friends who moved away and didn’t have the time to sell their stuff before they left. But I had a garage to store them in and plenty of time to sell them right, for maximum profit.

It’s an art and a challenge. Here’s how you, too, can be a Craigslist Samurai.

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Wait… When Did DIYing Become As Expensive As Buying New??

Wait… When Did DIYing Become as Expensive as Buying New??

I often fall into the trap of seeing a cost estimate online and thinking, “Ah, I, savvy anti-consumer than I am, shall devise a way to get the same results for a fraction of the price!” So I slave over making something, fixing something, finding something… and then I pass by the exact item I just made, sitting on the shelf of Home Goods, for twenty dollars less than the price I just paid to make it myself.

Why does this happen? I was raised with the general truism that making something yourself is less expensive than buying it new. And I think this used to be the case with almost everything.

But our world has changed a lot in a short amount of time. Certainly for our grandmothers, it was cheaper to sew their own dresses than buy them from a catalogue. But big, global economic factors have pulled down production prices for almost everything under the sun. And that has a huge effect on whether DIYing something is really going to save you money.

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Ask the Bitches: Why Are Painted Mason Jars the Internet's Only Solution to My Tiny Apartment Woes?

Ask the Bitches: Why Are Painted Mason Jars the Internet’s Only Solution to My Tiny Apartment Woes?

In finance, Piggy and I are as the knuckle-dragging Australopithecus. We’re upright, we get the job done, don’t yell at us! But we’re the clumsiest possibly hominids. Our knowledge is erratically cobbled together from history books, finance podcasts, Kitty’s racist-yet-thrifty grandpa, and poorly-sourced socialist Facebook memes.

Thankfully, there are other areas where we are Homo neanderthalensis: graceful and erect, with powerful bodies and minds, superbly adapted to the cold, with cosmopolitan attitudes on interspecies breeding. Our knowledge in these areas is instinctual, virtuosic. And one of these areas is organizing small spaces.

Today we have a great reader question from our Tumblr on this very topic:

Hi! I love your blog and I find it really helpful!! I’m a mid-20s human in the SF Bay Area. I got a job and and was able to get an extra $15k in my salary (thanks to your advice!), and have now moved into my own little studio. My problem is this: Everything to help you “save space” on the web seems to actually be “how to move your entire kitchen into hand-painted mason jars”. Any advice on how to organize my space without buying useless storage buckets on Amazon?

Is… is this what I think it is? PERMISSION TO GO ON MY BIG RANT ABOUT MASON JARS? Oh, thank the stars! (Jars?)

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Dafuq Is Insurance and Why Do You Even Need It?

This article is definitely not about health insurance. I specifically refer to pretty much every other kind of insurance you can get in the United States, but not health insurance. Because contrary to what our fearless leader said recently, everyone knows that healthcare is really fucking complicated. Not to mention expensive.

Therefore, I’m saving it for another post so as not to muddy the waters… with our tears.

Our readers from civilized countries like Canada and Namibia are probably recoiling in horror right about now. Yeah. WELCOME TO THE LAND OF THE FREE AND THE HOME OF THE BRAVE, BITCHES. Moving on.

Insurance in general can seem like a confusing and unnecessary gamble. Obtaining it and taking advantage of its benefits might seem daunting. Why should you pay money for something you might never need? You’re healthy and careful! What’s the point of this expensive service?

Worry not, my confident yet naive marshmallow peeps. I’ll break it all down for you.

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This Flowchart Tells You When You Need Extended Warranties

Is it my imagination, or are companies offering extended product warranties way more often than they used to?

Oh, I’m being coy. I know the answer—Portia reads the papers! 74% of electronics shoppers and 85% of appliance shoppers get the extended warranty pitch during their shopping experience.

Whether in-person at the Apple Store or online at Amazon, it seems like every purchase now comes with a suggested extended warranty. And it’s not just for computers and smartphones. I’ve gotten these offers on crappy $10 earbuds, pet hair vacuum cleaners, and brass floor lamps.

Why are companies pushing these special extended warranties? And how do you know if purchasing one is in your best interest?

I’m proud to say that I’ve developed a formula to answer this very question, and I’ve put it into a helpful flowchart for all you good boys and girls. But it wouldn’t be a Kitty article if I didn’t bury my lede under some quasi-socialist deconstructions of consumerism first!

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Five Reasons To Love the Tiny House Movement

At times, our article on tiny houses ventured toward… scathing. Which isn’t even original, as evidenced by articles like this, this, this, thisthis, this, this, thisthis, this, this, this, and this. Jeez. Maybe this counts as punching down on the tiny house movement?

So as promised, we will conclude our series by refocusing our discussion on what’s great about the tiny house movement. As the movement begins its slow fade into obscurity, these are the five points I pray leave a lasting impact on our culture.

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Bullshit Reasons To Live In a Tiny House, Refuted

Bullshit Reasons To Live In a Tiny House, Refuted

“I would rather bathe in 10,000 scorpions while singing the entire libretto of Rent than live in a tiny house.”

-Piggy

For a while there, I was ready to breathe easy, thinking the tiny home craze had finally passed. I saw fewer think pieces, pins, aspirational hashtags. The advent of television shows describing the movement seemed to announce its loss of counter-culture status, a sure sign of the end.

… Then I started a financial blog.

Like a recalcitrant UTI patient, I’d stopped taking antibiotics when my symptoms left. My reward was the metaphorical equivalent of pissing broken glass and lava: boundless renewed fascination with tiny houses.

I understand! Tiny homes are appealing to frugal people. On paper, they’re everything a traditional home is, but optimized: cheaper, greener, less constricting. But the proliferation reveals a less rosy truth.

I think the tiny house movement is already being lowered into its coffin, but allow me to secure the lid. The following list comes from Tiny House Blog’s Top 10 Reasons to Join the Tiny House Movement. (I selected this list because it popped up first when I googled “reasons to get a tiny house.” Interestingly, the second is 5 Reasons Buying a Tiny House is a Mistake.)

I’m going to dismantle each one because I’m a neoliberal killjoy and secret corporate shill for Big Housing.

Hold onto your butts.
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9 Essential Tools for Apartment-Dwellers (and 6 That Are Kinda Useless)

Bitch Nation, I have lovely news. My little brother just moved in with me!

He’s almost a full decade younger than me, and is graduating college a semester early. His final task before graduation is completing an internship, and it just so happens that he was accepted at one in my city. He’s crashing for the summer and filling the house with all sorts of dangerous new ideas. (Sports jerseys can be wall decor. WHO KNEW?)

Little brothers, man!

As my whole being pulsates with prideful big sister vibes, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it was like to be twenty-one and living in a big city for the first time. If I could go back ten years, there’s so much I would tell myself to spare me time, heartache, and money. So if you notice a certain nostalgia creeping into my upcoming posts, that’s probably why!

I got tons of advice when I moved into my first apartment. Some friend or family member gifted me with the tiny toolbox I called Baby’s First Toolbox. It was the size of a slim binder and probably cost them $20.

And that $20 box of tools has saved me thousands of dollars over the last decade.

In the spirit of learning from the past and embracing the skills you need for the future, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite and least favorite tools for beginners. These tools assume you’re not super handy (yet), and that you have a very limited amount of both space and money.

Every one of the tools on the first half of this list can be purchased for less than $10, and they’re among the most ubiquitous finds at garage sales. Ask your parents and grandparents if they have extras they would give to you—because I’ve learned that part of being an adult is magically acquiring one new screwdriver every two years???

I don’t know what’s up with that. It’s like the tooth fairy, but even lamer.

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